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March 15, 1999


Attempted murder charge against Jaya puts state government in a bind

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N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras

The Madras police are at a loss what action to take on the charge made by chartered accountant K Rajasekaran that J Jayalalitha, her friend and aide Sasikala Natarajan, and Sasikala's nephew S Mahadevan beat him up at the former chief minister's Poes Garden residence on Saturday.

Jayalalitha suspects Chief Minister M Karunanidhi of having put Rajasekaran up to the charge. The state government, meanwhile, is taking its own time deciding its course of action because it does not want Jayalalitha to gain political mileage through any precipitate action.

"It's not a question of political vindictiveness as alleged by Jayalalitha. It's purely a case of securing the life and liberty of her former auditor," a senior police officer said. "After all, you cannot let the opinion gain ground that politicians can do what they like and get away because it's too sensitive for the government of the day to act upon. Imagine a situation where the auditor or anyone else on his behalf moves the judiciary accusing the police of dereliction of duty."

Rajasekaran has accused Jayalalitha, general secretary of the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Sasikala and Mahadevan of beating him up, the first two with high-heeled chappals brought in a plastic cover by Sasikala, and the third with a stick, after calling him over for clarifications relating to the accounts of Jayalalitha and Sasikala. Rajasekaran was the accountant for both until recently.

Rajasekaran also claims to have been forced to sign a letter in Tamil written by Sasikala, write and sign another in English, and sign some stamp papers purporting to show that he took Rs5 million in two parts of Rs3 million and Rs2 million from Jayalalitha in June 1996.

Rajasekaran, his hands and an eye swathed in bandages and bruises and swellings all over his body, filed a police complaint on Saturday. He said he escaped the torture after he was let off outside his Royapettah office, where Mahadevan allegedly took him in a car to obtain his office seals on the papers he had signed.

Rajasekaran's staff had left early since it was Saturday. He said, "Mahadevan whipped out a pistol and threatened me with dire consequences for my family if I went to the police."

"I begged and prayed with Jayalalitha and Sasikala to leave me alone, and promised to do whatever they wanted, yet they kept beating me," the 53-year-old accountant told reporters visiting him at the Government Eye Hospital, Egmore.

Earlier, he gave up the idea of going to a private clinic on the advice of his lawyer-brother R Ganesan, who had accompanied him to Poes Garden. Ganesan was apparently asked to wait outside, and followed in Rajasekaran's car when Mahadevan took the accountant away in another vehicle.

The news broke on Saturday evening when journalists on the hospitals beat got wind of Rajasekaran undergoing treatment at the government hospital at Royapettah, not far from his office. Rajasekaran had got himself admitted to the casualty ward.

According to the accident report, he was "assaulted by three known persons with wooden logs and high-heeled shoes at Poes Garden". The journalists then approached the police for comments, which was when the lawmen realised this was more serious than they had thought.

The police have registered a case at the Teynampet police station, within whose jurisdiction Poes Garden lies, on the basis of a Rajasekaran's written complaint. They traced him to the Egmore eye hospital and have provided him security. His family at T Nagar, Madras, and the larger family at Thanjavur have also been given protection after Ganesan said they received threatening calls after Saturday's incident.

As a precaution, the police have sent the first information report to the IX metropolitan magistrate's court in Saidapet and registered cases against Jayalalitha and the other two under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt with dangerous weapons and means), 342 (wrongful confinement), 347 (wrongful confinement to extort property or constrain to illegal act), 506-2 (threat to cause death or grievous hurt), 34 (common intention) and 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) of the Indian Penal Code.

They have also filed an additional charge against Mahadevan under section 25 of the Arms Act for alleged possession of an illegal weapon.

Jayalalitha has denied Rajasekaran's charge. She even sent him a bouquet of flowers and a 'get-well-soon' card at the hospital, but they were returned.

Her lawyers are believed to have suggested applying for anticipatory bail, but the former chief minister felt that would amount to a prima facie admittance of guilt. She seems to have decided to fight the case on the political front as that will put the government on the defensive and make it think twice before arresting her.

The government is in a bind. It does not want to be seen to be caving in to Jayalalitha's political ploys. But it also does not want to play into her hands by having the police interrogate or detain her. "She could then accuse the DMK government of harassment," the senior officer mentioned earlier pointed out.

Jayalalitha has already accused the state government of conspiring with some local newspapers last year to publish a picture of her with persons resembling Rajiv Gandhi's assassins, who later turned out to be AIADMK lawyers in Dharmapuri.

While the authorities are examining the possibility of having Mahadevan questioned or detained, the possibility of immediate action against Jayalalitha looks bleak.

Political friends of AIADMK chief Jayalalitha, like Janata Party president Dr Subramanian Swamy, have already cited Supreme Court rulings of 1994 and 1997 to argue that a prominent person like the former chief minister, whose presence for interrogation can be procured at any time without difficulty, need not be detained.

Swamy said the police should first look into the visitors' log maintained by the National Security Guard at Jayalalitha's residence to confirm whether Rajasekaran visited her in the first place.

The buzz is that Jayalalitha and Sasikala are upset with Rajasekaran for tendering "wrong professional advice" in the receipt of $300,000 from abroad, which was declared by the former chief minister under the amnesty scheme of the Union finance ministry and is now being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation under the supervision of a Madras court.

The stamp papers for receipt of Rs5 million claimed to have been signed under duress by Rajasekaran are believed to relate to Jayalalitha's tax dues for the same period.

Financial ex-adviser charges Jaya with attempted murder

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